This coming Sunday fight fans at the Sumiyoshi Ward Center in Osaka will see the fast rising Ryosuke Nishida (5-0, 1) look to make his second defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Bantamweight title, as he takes on Filipino challenger Aljum Pelesio (11-1, 6). A win for Nishida would likely leave him only a fight or two away from a potential world title fight whilst a victory for the challenger would give his career a massive boost, whilst also painting a target on his back for other fighters in the region.
Of the two men the more well known is Nishida. The professional novice was a solid amateur before beginning his professional campaign in in 2019, in Thailand.His rise since then has been rapid, and in just his third fight he beat former world title challenger Shohei Omori, who was once seen as the successor to Shinsuke Yamanaka as Japan's next big Bantamweight star, before beating Daigo Higa last April to claim the WBO Asia title, and make the world sit up and take note. Sadly his only defense so far came last December, when he beat Japanese foe Tetsuro Ohashi, in something of a weak first defense. The wins over Omori and Higa, in his 3rd and 4th bouts, are hugely impressive, and make it clear that Nishida's team not only believe in him, but also know that he has the self belief to beat well known names.
In the ring Nishida is a fighter who certainly doesn't have an explosive or powerful style, but what he does have is a brilliant boxing brain, fantastic ring craft and a complete understanding of what he's doing in the ring. He's light on his feet, keeps things simple and uses his jab to control the action, tempo and range of a fight. In terms of pure boxing skills, he is excellent, and is a wonderful outside fighter who made Higa look like a novice at times. His style might not be the most exciting, or fan pleasing, but it's effective, and as he matures and gains valuable experience we do expect his style to change slightly. We expect him to begin on sit on his punches more, grow belief in his power, which is criminally under-rated, and start to record stoppages, especially in the 10 and 12 round bouts that he'll now be competing in.
As for Pelesio, the 24 year old "Nightmare" is something of an unknown outside of his homeland. He debuted in 2017 and won his first 9 bouts, including wins over Dave Barlas (then 4-0-1) and John Mark Tihuk (then 2-0-2), before losing a razor thin decision to Lienard Sarcon in August 2019. Since then he has picked up 2 wins, in a career that has been clearly disrupted by the pandemic. Sadly for Pelesio there are a lot of question marks over his head coming in to this one. One of those is how he will deal with the 10 round distance. He has been in one scheduled 10 rounder, but that ended in the opening round, and to date his longest bouts are 8 rounds, with him going 2-1 over that distance. This will also be his first bout away from home and is a massive step up from his previous competition.
Watching Pelesio in action In the ring Pelesio is a fairly basic looking fighter, who's patient in the ring, rather open when he comes forward, and seems to have very little to trouble a fighter like Nishida. He does have quick hands, and likes to fighter as a counter puncher, but seems to like the crisp, clean punching needed to make the style a success, and he also doesn't have the power needed to make his counters really tell. On paper his record looks impressive, but in reality it is paper thin and has no wins that have really shown how much potential he has. He has wins that we think will age well, but proved little at the actual time.
Sadly for Pelesio it's hard to see him having anything to really test Nishida. What we expect is something of a slow burner early on. Both men being patient, waiting to see what the other has to offer. When Nishida figures out Pelesio can't test him we expect to see his confidence grow, and grow and in the later rounds he will push for the stoppage, getting his man out of there in the later rounds.
Prediction - TKO9 Nishida.
This coming Tuesday fight fans at Korakuen Hall will see see WBO Asia Pacific Light Welterweight champion Andy Hiraoka (20-0, 15) look to record his third defense, as he takes on hard hitting Filipino challenger Alvin Lagumbay (13-5-1, 11). On paper the bout looks like a total mismatch, in favour of the talented, unbeaten and hotly tipped Hiraoka, but we have seen in the past that Lagumbay has the power to be a very threat and isn't someone to look past, despite his limitations.
The unbeaten Hiraoka is widely regarded as one of Japan's brightest hopes, and potentially their next world champion at 140lbs, a division they've not had a champion at since 1992. Aged 26 he's still young but coming into his prime and has improved over the last few years, developing from an athletic fighter, who relied on athleticism, to becoming a well rounded boxer, who just so happens to be a bit of an athletic freak. Also despite "only" being 26 he is already something of a veteran, with 20 bout to his name in a career that dates back to 2013 and saw him advance to the All Japan Rookie of the Year final in 2014. His talent has caught the eye not just at home, but also in the West with Top Rank working with him, promoting two of his bouts Stateside, and has also seen him having notable success, as he has won both the Japanese Youth, Japanese and WBO Asia Pacific titles at 140lbs.
In the ring Hiraoka was once a fighter who lived on his freakish size, with long limbs and a body that looked like it was made to be an athlete. He had size, speed, stamina and power. But he was somewhat lacking in boxing basics. As the years have gone on he has really worked on the boxing side of things, and now looks like a natural fighter, fighting behind a solid southpaw jab, and with good timing on his left hand. There is still work to do, but he looks like a totally different fighter to the one who was being badly beaten by Takahiko Kobayashi in late 2017. That bout seemed to make him realise he had to take this seriously, and he has since gone on to score very notable wins over the likes of Akihiro Kondo, Rickey Edwards, Jin Sasaki and Shun Akaiwa, by relying on his boxing skills, not his athletic tools.
With a 13-5-1 record Lagumbay doesn't look anything special, and in fairness the 27 year old isn't anything special. But he is someone that everyone needs to be careful against, because he has something every fighter fears. Brutal power. Since turning professional in 2015 Lagumbay has never developed into a good boxer. He has however been blessed with power. He lost in his debut, to Joe Tejones, before reeling off 8 straight wins with 7 by stoppage, 6 in the first 3 rounds. He almost continued that run when he rocked Kazuki Saito, before Saito bounced back and stopped Lagumbay in 4 rounds. He would score his most notable win just 5 months after that loss, when he stopped Keita Obara in 2 rounds, to claim the WBO Asia Pacific Welterweight title, in a sensational bout that saw a rare double knockdown. Sadly since that win Lagumbay has gone 3-3-1, and despite winning his last 3, it's hard to know what he has left to offer the sport. Other than his brutish power.
In the ring Lagumbay is slow, clumsy, easy to hit, and whilst his boxing has gradually developed he is still very limited. He has got size going for him, and he is a tall, long, rangy puncher, but technically he's still very limited. He does however have that aforementioned power and he's also a southpaw. No one likes facing hard hitting southpaws, with long reaches and Lagumbay is certainly a freakish puncher who throws from horrible angles and has bricks for hands. He's also a quick starter, and is very, very dangerous over the first 3 rounds. If he doesn't finish and opponent early however, he is likely to be stopped himself, or picked apart at range as wide sweeps take a toll on his own gas tank.
With Lagumbay being dangerous early on we expect to see Hiraoka fighting smartly for the first few rounds, looking to get his jab in Lagumbay's face and staying t range. By round 4 or 5 however we expect to see Hiraoka look to change to tone of the bout, taking the fight to a tiring Lagumbay and taking him out in in the middle rounds. If Lagumbay lands early on he could give Hiraoka real fits, and the focus from the unbeaten man, for 2 or 3 rounds, will be to stay away and keep himself safe. After that however the bout will be as easy, or as hard, as he makes it.
Prediction - TKO6 Hiraoka
On September 3rd the EDION Arena Osaka, in Osaka will play host to a WBO Asia Pacific Flyweight title fight, as the world ranked Riku Kano (19-4-1, 10) faces Yuga Inoue (13-2-1, 2) for the vacant belt. The bout will push the winner to the verges of a WBO world title fight, against fellow Japanese fighter Junto Nakatani, whilst the loser will begin the arduous climb back to where they are, a task that could be a rather tricky one in a division with the emerging talent that Flyweight currently has.
Of the two men the more well known is 24 year old Kano, who debuted way back in 2013,as a 16 year old, and quickly earned attention by winning the WBA Asia Minimumweight title in 2014. At that point Kano was just 17 and wasn't old enough to even debut in Japan despite having a 5-1-1 (3) record. He made his long awaited Japanese debut the following year, winning the OPBF "interim" title in 2016 before fighting for the WBO title in an attempt to become the youngest ever Japanese world champion, a dream ended by Katsunari Takayama. Since that loss to Takayama we've seen Kano go 9-2 and show real development. He looked like an immature youngster against Shin Ono in 2018, boxing well until being cut and then bullied into submission, but has developed into a brave, tough young man, showing real determination and guts to defeat Tetsuya Mimura, Ryoki Hirai and Takuma Sakae in recent bouts. He's not longer the frail child who looks like he could be broken mentally, but instead looks like a genuine fighter, who has learned from his set backs, and physically matured as he's moved from Minimumweight, to Light Flyweight and now to Flyweight.
In the ring Kano has always been a rather technical fighter, who has a lot of speed, with hand and feet. He's never been a big puncher, but he's a clean accurate puncher, who lands and gets in and out. In his Flyweight debut we so a more physical side to him, as he stopped Sanchai Yotboon in 2 rounds, but that bout really doesn't tell us what he's going to be like as a Flyweight, given Yotboon's limitations and the fact he's a natural Miniumweight himself. We expect a Flyweight Kano to focus on his speed, his accuracy and his skills and movement, and not massively change his style, especially not here as he takes on a legitimate test at the weight. Sadly at 5'4" he's not a physical match for the top guys at the weight, and will struggle with the heavier handed fighters at 112lbs, though to his credit he is a tricky southpaw and he is genuinely talented, even if he's yet to live up to the potential he clearly has.
As for Inoue, no relation to Naoya, the 23 year old debuted in 2016 and got a lot of attention in 2017 when he won the All Japan Rookie of the Year at Minmumweight. Sadly for Inoue his unbeaten record came to an end less than 11 months after his Rookie of the Year triumph as he was broken down in a 6 round thriller against Kai Ishizawa, in what was a brilliant bout for the Japanese Youth Minimumweight title. Since then Inoue's body has filled out as he's matured and gone 6-1 (1) winning the Japanese Youth title along the way. He has, notably, faced solid domestic foes, including the likes of Daiki Kameyama, Katsuya Murakami, Daiki Tomita and Aoba Mori, but unfortunately for him his form belies a man who has regularly struggled at this level. Whilst his 6-1 record since the Ishizawa fight looks good, it should be noted that it includes 4 controversial decision wins and there is a feeling that he has had the benefit of the doubt in a number of bouts.
In the ring Inoue is a technically well polished fighter, with a lovely jab, good balance and quick feet. He moves around the ring well, he looks poised and polished, and his jab really is the key to his work. There are other weapons in his arsenal, but there's no denying his best work is either the jab it's self, or comes off the jab. Sadly though the lack of variation in what he does is really against him, and whilst his jab is polished his other punches don't look very natural to him and they seem like they need real work. The lack of power is also something that's against him, and although he's still young, at 23, it does appear that he isn't going to develop much in terms of punching power. A double issue given how forced and pushed his shots in general are. It's due to his lack of power and lack of variation that many of his bouts end up being really close, as fighters figure him out, work out his jab and then begin to rack up points. Here that will be a massive issue against someone as well rounded as Kano.
To beat Kano the main tactic has been to bully him, either with physicality or work rate. Set a tempo he doesn't like, keep it up and watch him crumble. Sadly for Inoue he doesn't look to be the type of fighter who can either set a high output for 12 rounds, which he'd need to given his lack of power, or hurt him with any single shot and get his respect that way. Instead we expect the rather back approach of Inoue, and the lack of pop in his shots, in general, to work to Kano's advantage. Kano will show his speed early on, maybe losing a battle of jabs for the first few rounds, but then begin to show more variation, changing things up, and simply out work and out fight Inoue en route to a clear decision win over 12 rounds.
Prediction - UD Kano
The final Japanese show this month takes place at Korakuen Hall and has a really solid looking main event as Yoshimitsu Kimura (13-2-1, 8) faces former foe Kanehiro Nakagawa (11-6, 5), in a bout for the WBO Asia Pacific Super Featherweight, and a contest that has the potential to be something of a sleeper classic. One that is easy to over-look, but should deliver something a little special. The bout not only has two guys who are often over-looked, but two guys who have very fun styles, and also have a bit of history, with this being the second bout between the men.
Before we look at where we are today, we need to discuss the fact the two men faced off way back in 2017. That bout saw Kimura take a very hard fought decision over Nakagawa, who at the time didn't look like someone we'd be talking about 5 years later. The bout saw Kimura move to 8-0 and continue his ascent through the ranks, whilst Nakagawa fell to 4-5, and seemed to be heading towards total obscurity. Since then Kimura has gone 5-2-1, and proven to be one of the most fan friendly fighters in Japan, with notable bouts against the likes of Hironori Mishiro, Shuma Nakazato and Kosuke Saka, with his win over Saka landing him his regional title. As for Nakagawa he has totally turned his career around, going 8-1 and scoring notable domestic wins over Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Ken Osato, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa.
With the short history lesson out of the way, lets talk about the two men, and who they are today, and how that could also play a major role in this bout.
The 25 year old Yoshimitsu Kimura is one of the most fun to watch fighters in Japan. He debuted in 2015 and would go on to win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2016, fighting as a Featherweight. He ran up a 9 fight unbeaten record, including the aforementioned win of Nakagawa, before challenging Richard Pumicpic for the WBO Asia Pacific Featherweight title and coming up short, in a really competitive bout. That fight, at the age of 21, showed there was real potential with Kimura. He bounced back from that loss by by moving up in weight and scoring 3 solid wins before challemging OPBF Super Featherweight champion Hironori Mishiro, and losing a very close, incredibly competitive bout by split decision, in what was one of the best fights of 2019. That loss was followed by another set back as he suffered a draw, in another thriller, with Shuma Nakazato. In his bout following that draw Kimura scored the biggest win of his career, stopping Kosuke Saka in 3 rounds to win the OPBF Super Featherweight title.
One this to note coming into this bout regarding Kimura is that earlier this year he was scheduled to face Samir Ziani. That bout was cancelled at short notice, and coming in to this bout it's going to be interesting to see if that cancelation effects Kimura or not, as he did admit he had lost motivation due to that fight falling through.
In the ring a driven Kimura is a nightmare to fight. He's gritty, determined and as we saw against Mishiro and Nakazato, he simply doesn't know when he's beaten. That has made him a fan favourite and a must watch fighter in Japan. He can be hurt, he can dropped, but it's going to take something very special to stop him and stop his desire. In terms of his style he's someone who can box and move, and is a very solid boxer, however what makes him so much fun to watch is that he has real dog inside him. When things are tough he often forgets his boxing skills and goes all out, setting a high tempo, applying a lot of pressure and simply try to grind down opponents. Although his best offense is his volume he is also a solid puncher, and that was shown in his bout with Saka, when big head shots from Kimura left Saka stumbling around the ring. At 130lbs, and now in his physical prime, Kimura looks like a nasty fighter, as he develops his power, his strength and his confidence, making him even tougher to beat. He can box, he can fight, he can punch, and although he's not world class in any area he is a very, very solid all round.
On paper Nakagawa is very limited, and his 11-6 (5) record includes not just 6 losses, but also 2 stoppage losses. Despite that the 27 year old is regarded as one of the top Super Featherweights in Japan and in Asia. He is highly regarded not due to a padded record, like some fighters out there, but due to his current form, and the way he has totally turned his career around. He debuted in 2014, losing in 2 rounds, and was 4-5 after 9 bouts with losses to the likes of Toru Kiyota, Kimihiro Nakagawa and, of course, Yoshimitsu Kimura. Since then however he has developed in so many ways, and taken those losses as a sign to improve, to develop and to grow as a fighter. He has gone 7-1 since that start, and really should have been 8-0 with the loss to Ren Sasaki in 2018 being a very debatable one. He now fights like a man determined to never lose again, and victories over the likes of Seiichi Okada, Ryuto Araya, Taiki Minamoto and Shinnosuke Hasegawa have certainly helped in still a real confidence in him.
Sadly it's not all been plain ailing for Nakagawa, despite his great form, and he, like Kimura, has had a bout cancelled this year. For him it was a planned bout against Kosuke Saka, that had to be scrapped when Nakagawa suffered an injury. That means he has been out of the ring since October 2021.
In the ring Nakagawa doesn't do anything amazingly well. He's not got lights out power, or lightning speed, or incredible movement. Much like Kimura however he's become a very, very hard man to beat, with a great sense of will and desire in his in ring work. He comes forward, is determined and sets and odd rhythm to things, which upsets fighters. He does a lot of things wrong, isn't technical, but is tough, has plenty of pop on his shots and throws from some really awkward and peculiar angles. His footwork is odd, his punches are weird and yet he still managed to use his really odd style to great success. Trying to prepare for Nakagawa and his really odd style, that looks amateurish as hell at times, must be a nightmare and few will be able to replicate it in sparring, making him even tough to fight.
Sadly for Nakagawa we do feel that Kimura is genuinely a special fighter. Maybe not a future world champion, but special enough to compete at that level even if he does fall short. As for Nakagawa he's awkward, clumsy and hard to beat, but we do feel that, over 12 rounds, his style will be tiring to himself, and after 4 or 5 rounds Kimura will begin to read him better, time him more consistently, and take over the fight. We see Nakagawa having some really good success early on, but as the rounds fly by Kimura will begin to take over, and do enough to win a clear decision.
Prediction - UD12 Kimura
This coming weekend we'll see unified regional Welterweight champion Ryota Toyoshima (15-2-1, 9) look to make his second defense of the WBO Asia Pacific title, as he takes on Filipino challenger Adam Diu Abdulhamid (17-10, 9) at Korakuen Hall, in the headline bout of this month's Dynamic Glove show. The bout doesn't appear to be a step up for the champion, but it will see him tick over with his first bout since an impressive December defense against Shoki Sakai, whilst Abdulhamid will get the most notable bout of his career so far.
Of the two fighters it's the champion who will go in to this one with high expectations. He has been in great form recently, with 8 straight including notable ones against the likes of Moon Hyon Yun, Woo Min Won Riku Nagahama, Yuki Beppu and Shoki Sakai. Since his last loss, back in 2017, he has developed into a very solid boxer-puncher, who understands what he's doing in the ring, has solid enough power to get respect, and can move around the ring really well. He's unlikely to ever pose a threat at top of the global scene, and we suspect he knows that, however on the regional scene he has the tools to have excellent reign at the top. He has the skills, the power and the toughness to make a real mark at this level and have a lengthy reign.
Whilst Toyoshima is never going to become a world beater, the 26 year old from the Teiken Gym, has proven he is a very solid all rounder and notably only one man seems to have the answers to him, with that being Masaharu Kaito who gave him both of his defeats. When dragged into a war he can win those, as we saw against Yuki Beppu where his chin took the best Beppu had to offer, before he broke down and stopped Beppu. Sadly he's not a huge puncher, but more of a consistent puncher, who lands clean, regularly, and hurts fighters round by round. He had solid pop in every punch, and he really did show that in neutralising the pressure of Shoki Sakai, a notoriously tough man. If we are looking for areas he's weak he's not the quickest, he's not a fighter who has natural speed, but he makes up for that with decent timing and solid, dependable work rate, and a very nice variety of shots in his arsenal.
As for the challenger the 27 year old Filipino has been around since 2013 and had mixed success early in, going 3-2 in his first 5. Following that stumbling start he found his groove, and climbed to 9-2, before suffering a stoppage loss Georgii Chelokhsaev in Russia, where he suffered an injury in the opening round. That loss was a set back, but not the end end as he returned to the ring soon afterwards and picked up 2 wins on the domestic scene before a close loss in 2017 to Apinun Khongsong. That loss started a downfall, that saw him fall to 11-6, and he's never really rebuilt from there, strugglign for consistency. He's shown he can score upsets, as he did in 2018 against Youli Dong, but his results aren't consistent and worse yet he suffered his second inside the distance loss this past March, at the hands of Vitaly Petryakov.
In the ring it's fair to say that Abdulhamid is a very capable fighter. He moves like an aggressive fighter, he likes to press and pressure, coming forward to set the tempo of the bout. Early on he can be somewhat apprehensive of throwing shots, but as the rounds tick by he does fire more leather off. His aggressive footwork in ring style makes life hard for opponents, as we saw against Khongsong and Dong, but he's not a guy who will cut the ring down quickly. Instead he's a bit predictable and basic, allowing opponents with decent footwork to create space or make him pay for being wide with his shots.
Watching the two men one thing seems to be pretty clear, and that's the gulf between the two fighters, but instead the manner in which the Filipino fighter is essentially made to order for Toyoshima. The pressure from Abdulhamid should see him essentially walking into the firing zone of Toyoshima, who we suspect will pick him apart with the cleaner, crisper, more technically sound shots. Abdulhamid does have decent work rate when he decides to let his shots go, which typically comes after a slow start, but they are wide and will leave him open to counter shots from Toyoshima.
We suspect Abdulhamid will start slowly, losing a number of the early rounds, before trying to pick up the pace in the middle of the bout, and end up being caught time and time again by counter shots until he get stopped in the later rounds.
Prediction - TKO11 Toyoshima
This coming weekend we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Middleweight champion Yuki Nonaka (35-10-3, 10) make his 3rd defense as he takes on the relatively unknown Hiroya Nojima (9-1, 4). The bout, on paper, looks like a massive mismatch in favour of the talented veteran, however Nonaka is now 44, has fought just once in 3 years, and is a man coming to the end of a long, and successful, career, whilst Nojima is just 26 and hungry to make an impact on the sport as he heads into his prime years.
Having turned professional back in late 1990's few would have expected Nonaka to have had the career he's had. Born in Hyogo, a place that isn't really a hot bed for Japanese boxing talent, and debuting in 1999, at the wonderfully Chicken George in Kobe, there was no real expectation on Nonaka to have a successful career. What little expectations were on his shoulders were pretty much destroyed from the off, as he lost 2 of his first 3 bouts, 3 of his first 5, and 4 of his first 9, leaving him with a 5-4 (2) record. That poor start has however been put behind him and since then he has gone a very impressive 30-6-3 (9). That stat looks pretty impressive, but is even more impressive when put into some context, with Nonaka becoming a 2-time Japanese champion at 154lbs, claiming the OPBF title at 154lbs, and winning both the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles at 160lbs. He has also notched notable wins against the likes of Akihiro Furukawa, Kazuhiko Kudaka, Charles Bellamy and Shinobu Charlie Hosokawa, and has done so without having any exceptional physical trait. He has done it by simply under-standing boxing, and being good at it.
In the ring Nonaka is a very, very well schooled boxer who really under-stands the sport. Watching him we see a fighter who isn't fast, powerful, explosive or physically imposing. He's also not someone who sets a high work rate. Instead he simply lands clean, makes opponents miss, and dictates the action behind intelligent boxing, clean accurate sharp punches, and really good footwork. He is very much the sort of boxer who every fighter in the sport needs to watch. He lands clean shots at range, ties up up close, and simply dictates the action behind constant, steady, basic boxing. He has really gotten a lot from just simply understanding how to box, and not relying on physical tools. As a result of being a good boxer, he has had great success into his 40's, and continues to be one of the leading Japanese fighters in and around the Middleweight division.
The 26 year old Nojima is a baby in comparison to Nonaka, and only made his debut in 2019. He would start his career at Welterweigth and would score 3 straight wins before suffering his sole lose in November 2019, in a Rookie of the Year bout. Since then he has reeled off 6 straight wins and won Rookie of the Year himself, in the delayed 2020 Rookie of the Year. Sadly since his Rookie of the Year triumph he has not really shone, despite facing progressively better opponents, including a win over Masatery Hatagami in April, in an 8 round bout at 154lbs. Notably this bout will be his first as a Middleweight and his first over 10 rounds, both of which will be challenges for him, though not as much of a challenge as stepping up to face someone as talented, accomplished and experienced as Nonaka.
In the ring Nojima is a rather slow, awkward looking fighter who is defensively open, lacks snap, power and crispness, and he doesn't appear to have too much going for him. He is young, and he can certainly improve, but in many ways he looks like a novice, who needs a lot of work, in every area of his game. At Welterweight he had some size advantages over opponents, but at Middleweight that size advantage will not be there and although he might technically be quicker than a 44 year old Nonaka, there isn't the snap and crispness to him that there is with the veteran.
Coming in to this bout the feeling is that this is very much a stay busy and easy defense of Nonaka, who still hopes to land a major international fight before ending his career. From watching Nojima footage this really should little more than a showcase from Nonaka, who's crisp counter punching, accurate jab, and smart footwork should see him winning round, after round, after round to take either a clear decision, or a late stoppage, depending on whether Nonaka wants to score a somewhat rare, for him, stoppage. We suspect the constant, steady, stream of shots will eventually break down the challenger.
Prediction - TKO10 Nonaka
This coming Wednesday fight fans in Kumamoto get the chance to see two of their local boxing children return home, having made Tokyo their boxing home for the last few years. One of those two fighters is Japanese Minimumweight champion Ginjiro Shigeoka, and the other is his older brother Yudai Shigeoka (4-0, 2), who will be making his first defense of the WBO Asia Pacific Minimumweight title, as he takes on Cris Ganoza (19-3, 9).
Whilst less well known than his younger brother it's hard to deny that the 25 year old Yudai Shigeoka isn't an incredible talent, as we've seen since his professional debut in last 2019. Like his brother, Yudai was a stand out amateur, who proved himself in the unpaid ranks before following Ginjiro to the professional ranks. On his debut he looked calm, relaxed and composed whilst stopping Thai visitor Manop Audomphanawari, since then he has scored 3 genuinely notable wins, beating OPBF champion Lito Dante in just his second professional bout, then stopping Ryu Horikawa for the Japanese Ryu Horikawa and most recently Tsubasa Koura for the WBO Asia Pacific title. In just 4 bouts he has proven a lot, and quickly put himself in the mix for potential world title fights, and yet still has plenty of areas to improve on, with improvement likely to come with more ring time and experience.
In his most recent bout, his win over Koura, we saw that Shigeoka had a lot in his locker. He was, as we'd seen in the past, a talented, sharp, boxer puncher, but also someone who is defensively smart, incredibly quick, well schooled and good at finding holes in defenses. He isn't the most text book fighter out there, but he is a well schooled southpaw, who can box really well behind a jab and apply intelligent pressure. We also saw him being able to dig down and fight with Koura, digging deep when he needed to and taking the fight to Koura when he needed to. Notably he also show cased a good chin on the occasions that Koura caught him clean and the ability to counter. We do feel, at times, he was rushed by Koura, and didn't always look comfortable when that happened, but given he was stepping up massively in that bout and being pushed 12 rounds he did incredibly well and saw out the storms whilst also looking to get his own work off. Had that same fight come just a year or two later, with Shigeoka have 3 or 4 fights more, we suspect he would have won it quite easily, but still managed to see off a very, very good fighter, very early in his career.
As for Cris Ganoza, the Filipino is a 27 year old who made his debut in 2014 and has spent his entire career, so far, fighting in the Philippines. Despite never fighting outside of his homeland it should be noted he has shared the ring with some notable talent, including Edward Heno, who gave him his first loss back in 2017 unbeaten hopeful John Michael Zulueta, and former world title challenger ArAr Andales. Sadly he has lost to those 3 notable foes, and without trying to be too harsh he does lack in terms of notable wins, with the most notable coming against Donny Mabao back in 2018.
In the ring Ganoza looks like someone who could become a decent fighter, with the right training and mindset, but sadly as of his recent bouts, he looks very much like a work in progress and a very limited fighter, who makes a lot of mistakes. He has nice natural speed, but technically he's open, he's raw and he's worryingly reckless. He looks very much like a novice, who makes some very silly mistakes, and is seemingly trying to learn on the job. That's not to say he doesn't have nice handspeed and doesn't come to fight, more than he's very much a work in progress, and a bout at this level, against someone as skilled and polished as Shigeoka will not end well for him.
We know that Ganoza is fairly tough, but unfortunately he's also very open and we can't help but feel that his technical flaws and huge gaping defensive holes will be taken advantage of by Shigeoka, who will almost certainly see the gaps and punish Ganoza. The real question isn't who will win, but just how long can Ganoza survive against Shigeoka. We don't think it'll be all that long. We see the body shots taking the fight from Ganoza and breaking the Filipino down somewhere around the middle of the bout.
Prediction - TKO7 Shigeoka
This coming Saturday we'll see a triple crown champion being crowned at Light Flyweight as fast rising youngster Shokichi Iwata (8-0, 6) puts his Japanese title on the line and takes on OPBF champion Kenichi Horikawa (41-16-1, 14), with the vacant WBO Asia Pacific title also up for grabs for the winner. The bout is very much the future of Japanese boxing facing off with a man who is a true ring veteran. There is a staggering 16 years age difference between the two men, with Iwata being just 26 and Horikawa being 42, with a career that stretches back a staggering 22 years!
Iwata was a stand out amateur before he kicked off his professional career in 2018, doing so in the US with his debut coming in Carson, California. He impressed on debut and since then has climbed rapidly though the domestic ranks. In his 6th bout he beat veteran Toshimasa Ouchi, with an 8 round decision, and just 5 months later he would claim the Japanese Light Flyweight title, stopping Rikito Shiba in 9 rounds to take the legendary national title in just his 7th professional bout. Since then he has made a single defense, stopping Ouchi in a rematch earlier this year, inside a round. It's clear, from the fact he's now looking to become a triple crown champion, that he's trying to rapidly climb up the world rankings and will be looking to use the OPBF and WBO Asia Pacific titles to keep his options open for a world title fight, potentially later this year.
In the ring Iwata is a smart boxer-puncher who seems like he can do everything to a very, very, very high level. He's quick, sharp, light on his feet and can genuinely tailor his gameplan to take advantage of his opponents flaws. We've seen him fight at a high tempo as a pressure fighter, we've seen him box, we've seen him move and we've seen him showing his counter punching skills. As a fighter Iwata seems capable of doing everything, and whilst we wouldn't say he's elite in any single category, he does seem to be incredibly good at everything, which makes a very hard man to beat. The problem for opponents is that Iwata has plans A, B, C and D and that versatility will allow him to race through the domestic and regional ranks. Despite that there are still questions for him to answer, and we've not yet seem him get a real chin check, or prove himself above Japanese level, though he certainly looks like he has the tools to become the next Japanese force at 108lbs, following in the steps of Hiroto Kyoguchi and Kenshiro Teraji.
Horikawa is a true servant of Japanese boxing, with 58 fights over 22 years. He has proven himself as a genuine credit to boxing, a rugged fighter and someone willing to face anyone and everyone. During his long career he has faced Akira Yaegashi, Michael Landero, Florante Condes, Edgar Sosa, Tetsuya Hisada, Ryuji Hara, Yu Kimura, Shin Ono and Kenshiro Teraji, to just name a few notables. During his career he has proven himself to be a tough guy, with his only stoppages coming to Landero, Condes and Sosa. He has also shown himself to be a hard working, and he has turned around a 3-4 start to his career to become a 2-time Japanese Light Flyweight champion, as well as a former WBO Asia Pacific Light Flyweight champion and the current OPBF Light Flyweight champion. Unlike most fighters Horikawa's most notable success have come late in his career, and he had never won a title until he was 35, when he stopped Shin Ono for the Japanese title. He has aged like fine wine, and used his experience wonderfully well to improve, fight by fight.
In the ring Horikawa isn't pretty, he's not flash, and he's not explosive. Instead he's a rugged, hard working, who can get messy and physical when he needs to, as we saw in his third and final bout with Tetsuya Hisada. He's physical strong, comes forward and looks for mistakes. He has good timing, a smart boxing brain and looks to make the most of the flaws his opponents have. For a man who has had biggest results the wrong side of 35 it'll be little surprise to learn that he has great stamina, but he rarely needs to really show it, fighting at a relaxed tempo rather than an electric one. What he does really well is gradually break opponents down, physically and mentally. He's consistent, he's accurate, he's hard to get to and he dictates a lot of the action. He knows how to make things messy, he knows how to make opponents look bad and he knows how to win rounds. He know how to control the action and he knows that his counters can be a major difference maker, as we saw in his 2020 bout with Daiki Tomita. Sadly though there is a major issue with him coming into this bout, and that is the fact he's been out of the ring for around 2 years now, and it's really hard to know what he has left in the tank.
Sadly one thing that Horikawa has struggled with has been foot speed, and where fighters have moved he has struggled to force his fight on them. This was seen against Kenshiro and against Yuto Takahashi, and if Iwata wants to make life easy for himself he will to use his footwork to control the range of the bout and rack up rounds. Interestingly we actually believe that Iwata isn't just going to look to win, but instead impress. We expect to see him have Horikawa chasing him early on, but as the rounds go on, the 42 year old body of Horikawa begins to show it's age, cracks begin to appear, and Iwata will look to close the show in the second half of the bout, to give Horikawa only his 4th career stoppage loss.
Horikawa will have isolated moments in the first 3 or 4 rounds, whilst losing them, but as we head into rounds 8 and 9, Iwata will begin to hunt a finish and finally get it when the referee steps in to save Horikawa, who we expect will announce his retirement soon afterwards.
Prediction - TKO9 Iwata
On June 29th we'll see WBO Asia Pacific Super Flyweight champion Masayoshi Hashizume (19-0-2, 11) look to make his first defense, though unlike many champions he's not cherry picked and easy opponent. Instead the unbeaten Hashizume will be taking on former 3-weight world champion Kosei Tanaka (16-1, 9) in a brilliant bout to headline an Ohashi promoted card at Korakuen Hall. For Hashizume the bout marks his first major step up in class, and lets him take a huge stride towards a world title fight, if he can win here, whilst Tanaka will be looking to establish himself as a top contender in the talent heavy Super Flyweight division, and move towards a second world title fight at the weight.
Unlike most bouts the challenger is the more well and the betting favourite here. The once beaten Tanaka, 27, has long been one of the faces of Japanese boxing and someone widely regarded as a truly special fighter. The Hatanaka promoted fighter was destined for success the moment he turned professional and within a year of his debut he had claimed the OPBF Minimumweight title, doing so on an Ohashi promoted card at Korakuen Hall when he stopped the then unbeaten Ryuji Hara. Just a fight later, in just his 5th professional bout, Tanaka claimed his first world title, the WBO Minimumweight belt, just 19 months later he added the WBO Light Flyweight title and in 2018 added the WBO Flyweight title to his collection, needing just 12 fights to become a 3-weight champion. Sadly however his winning run came to an end in late 2020, when he was stopped in 8 rounds by WBO Super Flyweight champion Kazuto Ioka. In just 17 fights Tanaka has a genuine legacy for taking on top fighters, taking on challenges, and for have a resume many fighters will never be able to match. In just 17 bouts he has beaten the aforementioned Hara along with Yulian Yedras, Vic Saludar, Moises Fuentes, Angel Acosta, Sho Kimura, Ryoichi Taguchi, Jonathan Gonzalez and Sho Ishida.
Whilst Tanaka has been matched insanely hard he has had the talent to back up that ambition. He is lightning quick, with both his hands and his feet, he has some of the best combinations in the sport, great body shots, an amazing will to win, and an ability to fight through genuine adversity. As he's gotten older, and bigger, he has had tougher and tougher nights and it does feel like Super Flyweight is the highest he will have success at, but with his skills, his heart and his speed there is no reason he can't reach the top in the division in the coming years. Even in a division as tough and as stacked as the current Super Flyweight.
Whilst Tanaka is known, in has had fights shown globally including his 2018 Fight of the Year contender Vs Sho Kimura, the same can't be said of Hashizume. In fact Hashizume is something of a forgotten fighter even in his Japanese homeland. He turned professional in 2013, debuting 2 months before Tanaka, and he would win the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2014. That should have set him up for big things, but sadly he spent the following few years being matched incredibly softly against very poor Thai imports. Those low level Thai bouts did little for his development and in 2017, when he finally faced a domestic opponent again, he was lucky to escape with a draw against the out of form Kota Fujimoto. Thankfully that draw seemed to make Hashizume and his team sit up and get serious, and he would step up the following year, beating Takahiro Murai and Marjun Pantilgan before getting a shot at Japanese Super Flyweight champion in December 2018. Sadly for Hashizume he would be denied by Okumoto, with that bout ending a draw that seemed harsh on Hashizume. Since then he has scored 3 wins, with his latest coming this past February when he beat Akio Furutani for the WBO Asia Pacific and OPBF titles.
In the ring Hashizume is a big, strong looking Super Flyweight. He's also a smooth boxer, with nice speed, good combinations, a nice jab and impressive composure. Sadly he does a bit passive at times, and whilst he is solid all round, there is nothing that stands out as being sensational about him. He stalks, he comes forward and he looks to get to opponents, using a mix of boxing skills, pressure and physicality. There's a lot to like about him, including his willingness to march forward, and his commitment to his right hand. Sadly though he is defensively pretty basic, with a high guard that drops as bouts go on, and leave him easy to tag up top. He also gets sloppy in the later stages of bouts, especially if he's chasing things.
Hashizume has the physical traits to make life hard for Tanaka. He has the size, the strength and the power to ask questions of Tanaka up close. Sadly however for Hashizume that's really all he does have going for him. Technically Tanaka is better, the huge difference in speeds favours Tanaka, as does the level he's been fighting and the proven ability to find ways to win. We suspect that Hashizume will have moments, especially early on as he comes in behind a high guard and looks to force Tanaka where he wants. As the bout goes on however the speed difference, and the ability of Tanaka's to mix things up, draw mistakes and punish them, will show through and we suspect by the mid point Hashizume's face will be swelling up, before Tanaka begins to go to the body, where he will take out Hashizume with a body shot, or a series of them.
Prediction - TKO9 Tanaka
Over the past few years the Super Bantamweight division has become one of the most interesting at elite level, with the likes of Murodjon Akhmadaliev, Stephen Fulton, Brandon Figueroa and Daniel Roman putting on some incredible performances in some great bouts. Outside of the elite level the division has also become a real hot bed of contenders all looking to break out and earn their shot at a world title. This has seen fighters like Marlon Tapales, Azat Hovhannisyan, Carlos Castro and Ra'eese Aleem all fight some of the other leading fighters in the division.
Two other fighters looking to move into title world title contention clash this coming Tuesday in Saitama as Takuma Inoue (15-1, 3) and Gakuya Furuhashi (28-8-2, 16) face off, not just to move a step closer to a world title bout, but to also unify the WBO Asia Pacific and Japanese titles at the weight, in what could be a genuinely thrilling 12 rounder.
Of the two fighters the more well known, especially internationally, is Takuma Inoue. The younger brother of Naoya Inoue who we have seen develop as a fighter since making his debut way back in 2013, aged 17. Although better known as the Monster's little brother, Takuma has had an impressive career of his own, winning the OPBF title at Super Flyweight, Bantamweight and Super Bantamweight, as well as the WBC "interim" title, and holding notable wins against the likes of Tatsuya Fukuhara, Fahlan Sakkreerin Jr, Nestor Daniel Narvaes, Froilan Saludar, Hiroyuki Kudaka, Keita Kurihara and Shingo Wake. He might not be the Monster, but in regards to his own career, the 26 year old has had a genuinely very, very good one so far, and still has much of, if not all of, his prime years to come and we suspect he will become a fixture at world level as he continues to physically mature, and become a stronger, heavier handed fighter.
In the ring Takuma is very different to his brother, yet they both similarities. The key difference between them is that Takuma isn't blessed with Naoya's fighter changing power, he can't take opponents out with one shot and he rarely scores knockdowns. He is however, much like his brother, very technically schooled and an excellent boxer. He understands the sports, he gets the theory behind what he's supposed to do in the ring, and he fights to his own strengths. His timing is solid, his movement is impressive and his will to win is great. Despite lacking power he can take a shot, and he hits regularly enough and clean enough to get respect of fighters, with his recent wins over Kurihara and Wake both showing that his jab is heavy enough to keep fighters at bay, with his control of range and distance are excellent. His one loss, which came to Nordine Oubaali, showed he had grit, determination and real toughness, as he battered early on in that bout, but came close to stopping Oubaali in the later rounds, and that really showed his character and stamina, and that was despite the fact he was only 23 at the time. Despite losing that bout his reputation, in many ways, was actually enhanced.
Although Inoue is well known in the West the same can't be said for Gakuya Furuhashi, who has spent his entire career fighting on the Japanese domestic scene. In Japan however he is a popular fighter, with a sizable local following in Kanagawa and Tokyo. He began his career back in 2007, as a fresh faced 19 year old, and won the All Japan Rookie of the Year in 2008 at Bantamweight. In the years that followed he had mixed success, sliding from 8-0 (1) to 13-5 (4), but kept improving and in 2015 got his first shot at a Japanese title, fighting to a draw with future world champion Yukinori Oguni. Sadly that set back was then followed by back to back losses as his career seemed to stumble before losing in a second title fight, this time to Yasutaka Ishimoto. Following that bout he was 28 and then had a 18-8-1 (8) record, had gone 1-3-1 in previous 5 and it seemed like his career was about over. Since then however he has put together the ring of his career, going 11-0-1, making his international debut in Vietnam and beating the likes of Ryoichi Tamura and Yusaku Kuga whilst winning, and twice defending, the Japanese Super Bantamweight title. Now, aged 34, he looks the best he has ever looked, and is fighting like a man who has promised himself that he'll retire when he loses again, and isn't in a rush to let that happen.
In the ring Furuhashi is very much a warrior type fighter, who wants to force the bout to be fought on the inside, setting a high tempo, and having a war. He's not the quickest, or the sharpest, or the most technically well schooled, but he's one of the most determined fighters out there and he sheer bloody minded a lot of the time. His work rate is amazing, his desire to come forward and have a fight is stunning and as we saw against Yusaku Kuga in their first bout, back in 2021 he can take some huge shots and shake them off to come forward. In a war he's a hard man to beat, and despite not being a massive puncher, his work rate and desire grinds opponents down. He is intense in the ring, and a nightmare to keep away from. Notably however he can also box, something he wanted to show last year when he faced Seigo Hanamori. Something that Hanamori didn't let Furuhashi show as he tried to out Furuhashi Furuhashi, and got stopped quickly for it in a thrilling 3 round war. Sadly at the age of 34, and with a lot of tough bouts on his ledger, it's hard to know what he has left in the tank, and whether winning the Japanese title last year is something that will mark the pinnacle of his career.
Style wise Furuhashi does have the tools to make life really tricky for Inoue, his aggression, work rate, desire and intense forward march is the style that can unsettle Inoue's ability to control range. Furuashi however doesn't have the quickest of feet, or the skills to cut the ring off against a mover. With that in mind we expect Inoue to use his feet a lot, box and move, make Furuhashi commit to coming forward and throwing, before sliding to the side, landing a counter and making Furuhashi reset his forward march. Style wise Furuhashi is a nightmare for Inoue, but sadly his own limitations in the style, are going to make Inoue shine. The only real question is whether Inoue can close the show on a tired, and likely bloodied, Furuhashi late on. We feel he could, but we're not sure he will.
Prediction - UD12 Inoue
Having canned the old "Full Schedule" of Asianboxing we have instead decided to concentrate more on the major bouts. This section, the "Preview" section will look at major bouts involving OPBF and national titles. Hopefully leading to a more informative style for, you the reader.